Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Personnel

S&BI
Posted Dec 9, 2005


The Oakland Raiders made it official Wednesday - they will attempt to bring life their struggling offense by shaking the rust off a four-year veteran who hasn't taken a regular-season snap in 35 games.

Kerry Collins, showing equal parts graciousness and defiance, stepped aside for Marques Tuiasosopo.

A second-round draft pick in 2001, Tuiasosopo will get a four-game trial as the Raiders try to determine if the quarterback for 2006 and beyond is the same guy who has held a clipboard for Collins and Rich Gannon.

"It sends a message that no one should be too comfortable," linebacker Danny Clark said. "I've got a guy biting at my heels every day in practice. I'm a fan of Kerry's, so I don't have anything negative to say. But if we need a breath of life with Tui, I'll support it."

Tuiasosopo last played in the regular season on Nov. 2, 2003, starting after Gannon was lost for the season with a torn labrum. He threw an interception, fumbled twice and was out by halftime with a knee injury that ended his season.

The Raiders signed Collins before last season, pushing Tuiasosopo to No. 3, with Collins taking over for the last 13 games after Gannon suffered a career-ending neck injury.

Tuiasosopo has been anchored to the bench ever since, playing only in the preseason. His 2005 preseason was one of his worst, with no touchdown passes and four interceptions.

After throwing one interception in his first six games, Collins has nine interceptions in the last six, including seven interceptions in his last four games.

Sacked only 22 times in 505 pass attempts and 13 starts in 2004, Collins has been sacked 32 times in 442 attempts and 12 starts in 2005.

In the last two games, in particular, Collins has been hit early and often. Not all the sacks have been protection errors, as Collins has been more indecisive by the game.

Tuiasosopo, drafted when the Raiders were running Jon Gruden's ball-control offense and built for a versatile quarterback in the Gannon mold, should be able to evade the rush and create with his feet.

"I have a mobility part of my game where, hopefully, if something breaks down, I can keep a play alive or get out of harm's way and bring a spark that way," Tuiasosopo said. "I'll just keep battling and never give up. I enjoy playing the game and hopefully that will show."

Coach Norv Turner said Tuiasosopo wasn't being elevated simply to scramble for gains.

"Everyone assumes it's because he can move and all that, but Tui is a sound dropback passer," Turner said. "I think he'll do the things he needs to do, then improvise with his feet."

Tuiasosopo said he has gotten encouragement from his teammates, who straddle the delicate line between two quarterbacks who wish to be starters.

"Guys in this room have a lot of respect for Kerry," Tuiasosopo said. "At the same time, we want to win, finish on a high note, and that starts this weekend."

While acknowledging he has been told the job is his for the rest of the season, Tuiasosopo said he is concentrating on nothing but the Jets.

"I'm just going to go out and hopefully my play will do all the talking," Tuiasosopo said. "I'm not worried about the future now."

Tuiasosopo is tied to the Raiders for another season with a $477,000 salary. His contract would have voided had he played 30 percent of the snaps - a figure that will be impossible to reach with four games remaining.

Collins, meanwhile, may find himself looking for a new team. His 2006 contract has a salary cap number of just over $12.8 million - including a $6 million salary, $4.25 million in likely to be earned incentives and a $2.5 million roster bonus.

With an acceleration of only $1,053,000, Collins is looking at either renegotiation or release.

"There will be a time to contemplate my situation after the season," Collins said. "Right now, we've got a game this weekend and I plan on doing everything I can to get myself ready and help get Tui ready. It's been awhile since he's been in there and he's going to need my support and he'll get it because he supported me."

Collins, who said he was informed Tuesday of the decision, will go along with it even if he doesn't agree with it.

"I'm not happy about it," Collins said. "I feel this is my team. I feel like I give us the best chance to win Sunday. I put a lot into this. I put in a lot of effort. I'm disappointed with the decision. Having said that, I respect what Norv decided to do ... this isn't the way I envisioned this thing to go but I'll help Tui any way I can."

Turner, whose own job security could well depend on the last four games, declined to discuss Collins' future.

"It's way too early to talk about that," Turner said.

SERIES HISTORY: 34th meeting, Raiders lead 19-12-2. Jets won last game 27-24 in Oakland. Raiders last played Jets in Meadowlands in 1996, winning 34-13. Last five regular-season meetings have been in Oakland.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The last time they met the Jets at the Meadowlands, the Raiders were beaten 23-22 as New York ended a club-record 13-game losing streak at home.

Oakland, which blew a 22-10 halftime lead, lost the game on special teams, with place-kicker Cole Ford missing three field goal attempts and having a point-after touchdown attempt blocked.

New York's Ray Mickens returned a fourth field goal attempt 72 yards for a touchdown for the deciding points. Center Adam Treu has expunged much of the game from his memory, but remembers making a low snap that holder Leo Araguz had to pick up off the ground.

"Somebody on the field goal protection team missed a guy and a guy got through and blocked the kick," Treu said.

Treu, a rookie at the time and the only player on the Raiders roster still around from 1997, said he was worried about his job until he got home and saw the film which showed he was not at fault.

Incredibly, the Raiders had 374 yards passing, Napoleon Kaufman rushed for 126 yards, they had no turnovers, and still lost the game.

"It's frustrating but we just have to put it all together," quarterback Jeff George said. "It can't get any worse than this."

It got worse. The Raiders, who fell to 1-3, finished 4-12.

--In the previous two games against the Jets at the Meadowlands, in 1995 and 1996, the Raiders won 47-10 and 34-13.

--In response to a story detailing the difficulties of stopping the run and running the ball against AFC West opponents since the end of the 2002 season, the Raiders sent out a terse release in all capital letters reminding people of their rich tradition of past success in the division.

The Raiders, 2-14 in the division at the time of the release, fell to 2-15 with a 34-10 loss to San Diego two days later. They were outrushed, 125-81.

--Although the Raiders have the fewest interceptions in the NFL with three (Houston is No. 31 with four), they are tied for second in fumble takeaways with 13.

Free safety Stuart Schweigert is tied for the league lead with three fumble recoveries.

--Four of Collins' nine interceptions over the last six games were returned for touchdowns - a 70-yarder by San Diego's Clinton Hart, an 80-yarder by Denver's Darrent Williams, a 17-yarder by Washington's Lemar Marshall and a 52-yarder by Tennessee's Reynaldo Hill.

Collins' passer rating, which was 91.3 as recently as Week 8, is at a season-low 79.6 - 18th in the NFL.

--Collins had an NFL-high seven touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.

--Jets coach Herm Edwards admitted it was strange to have the Raiders visiting the Jets rather than the other way around. The last seven meetings, including a playoff game, took place in Oakland.

"I'm kind of used to going out there to the same Starbucks and seeing the (Raider) Nation. I like visiting the Nation," Edwards said.

--It was a big day for the Tuiasosopo family. On the same evening Marques got the call informing him he was the Raiders starting quarterback, his brother Zach, a rookie fullback, was added to the team's practice squad.

Zach Tuiasosopo played for the Raiders coaching staff in the Senior Bowl.

"It's a coincidence," Turner said. "We coached him in the Senior Bowl, John Paul Foschi has been hurting, and we need somebody in practice to give our guys a look."

Matt Tuiasosopo, a highly recruited high school quarterback, is playing minor league baseball for the Seattle Mariners organization and shouldn't be wearing silver and black any time soon.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 - Times the Raiders will have played in the Eastern time zone after facing the Jets. Oakland previously played in New England, Philadelphia and Washington, going 1-2.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not going to sit here and point fingers. I'm going to point the finger at myself. I'll say this - I can honestly say that I did everything I knew how to do to get ready to play on Sunday and I played my butt off. I can sleep good at night because I know that I did everything I could do ... I gave it my best shot," - Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Raiders coach Norv Turner, while conceding Marques Tuiasosopo's strengths and skills are different from those of Kerry Collins, insists there will be no major change in offensive philosophy with the change at quarterback.

Still, it's hard to imagine the Raiders putting in a quarterback with very good mobility and not getting him on the perimeter, where they haven't had any success from a quarterback since Rich Gannon in 2002.

Tuiasosopo may give the Raiders a chance to cut loose Randy Moss. Although Collins has a stronger downfield arm, which would in theory give Moss a chance to get deep, opponents have consistently played Moss with a soft man-to-man, conceding the short routes, and playing with safety help deep to prevent long passes.

With Tuiasosopo at quarterback, safeties will need to recognize the fact that the quarterback is capable of running around end for big gains - and be forced to come forward and defend. That could open things up for Moss.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--DT Ted Washington did not practice with thigh and quadriceps injuries. Terdell Sands, Tommy Kelly and Anttaj Hawthorne got work inside along with Ed Jasper, who missed last week with a back injury but said he expected to be ready to play.

--FB John Paul Foschi remained doubtful with a foot injury, and the Raiders appeared to be getting ready for the possibility that Foschi may not play this season, signing rookie fullback Zach Tuiasosopo - QB Marques' brother - to the practice squad.

--S Jarrod Cooper, listed as questionable with a calf injury, participated in the full practice Wednesday and expects to play Sunday. Cooper's availability would enable the Raiders to avoid using Calvin Branch - just re-signed last week - in the secondary.

--OL Jake Grove worked at left guard at practice and will probably start there against the Jets.

--OL Adam Treu took most of the snaps at center and should make his second straight start.

--G Brad Badger missed a portion of practice Wednesday and will likely back up left guard Jake Grove and right guard Ron Stone. Badger, who has a sore knee, was forced into action last week when Grove received a stinger after being blocked on an interception return.

--WR Doug Gabriel has a catch of 20 or more yards in each of his last three games.

--WR Randy Moss is 87 yards from 10,000 for his career. Moss has reached 87 yards only once (6 catches, 87 yards vs. Denver) since the fourth game of the season. Moss last went over 100 yards on Oct. 2, catching four passes for 123 yards against Dallas.

GAME PLAN: With a quarterback who hasn't started in 35 games, facing a defense ranked No. 29 against the run, the Raiders mission is clear. Give the ball to LaMont Jordan early and often, and allow Marques Tuiasosopo to shake off the rust with a fairly conservative game plan and get a win in the bank. Defensively, the Raiders will look to cut off Curtis Martin and pressure Brook Bollinger with a natural rush without much blitzing, forcing the Jets to put a series of plays together rather than one big play.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Raiders LT Barry Sims vs. Jets RE John Abraham: Oakland's pass blocking has been spotty at best the last two weeks, giving up 10 sacks in the past two weeks. Sims had trouble with Miami's Jason Taylor, a player built roughly on the same lines, as Abraham has 6 1/2 of New York's 18 sacks and is the Jets' best pass rushing threat.

Jets CB Ty Law vs. Raiders WR Randy Moss: Law has five interceptions but has been an easy mark for many receivers as the Jets have struggled mounting a consistent pass rush. Moss caught 7 passes, but for only 74 yards against San Diego. A chance for two players whose reputations have outweighed their performance to rebound.

INJURY IMPACT: Ted Washington's availability is Oakland's biggest concern. Washington is the Raiders' top run defender, and having him at full strength could cripple what will be an extremely conservative Jets offense.

Controlling the line of scrimmage and Curtis Martin's running plays would enable Oakland to Jets quarterback Brooks Bollinger to the air and make him susceptible to the pass rush, particularly defensive end Derrick Burgess.


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